Many AV makers claim unbelievable contrast ratio figures and/or other measurements on their home theatre projectors and/or TVs.
Epson are the self proclaimed leaders in projection so they are for that segment the ones others may follow?
Epson Australia quote just 2,000:1 contrast on some of their most expensive "Pro-AV" projectors and from 1,000,000:1 to 2,500,000:1 for some of their less expensive home theatre EH TW projector models. So why do Epson claim only 2,000:1 contrast ratio (this is actually a very good and realistic measurement in real life) on their top 2017 Pro-AV professional projectors? One theory is professionals know better so companies don't bother trying to win them over with unrealistic numbers on the box.
Other Epson models (USA) that quote massive CR numbers are (but not limited to) the PowerLite Home Cinema 5040UBe, PowerLite Home Cinema 5040UB, Pro Cinema 6040UB. Other brands follow where Epson lead so someone (hopefully Epson as market leader) needs to take a stand and start publishing their true ANSI CR.
PowerLite Pro Cinema 4855WU WUXGA 3LCD Projector - "Contrast Ratio: (High Brightness, Dynamic Mode) 5000:1 with Auto Iris on" is a welcome exception.
Mind you Dynamic is not a mode you'll be using for Home Cinema in a dark room plus the iris is not a great help when the image has both light and dark sections.
What's honest in advertising and demonstrations is just our opinion it does not mean we wanted to throw the Epson baby out with the bathwater.
That seems to be what Epson wanted to do. After we were told about the dissatisfaction with the review we also found out we could no longer sell some Epson models, we're sure this is a coincidence. Then again it happened after we made a fuss (in writing) as to why we couldn't sell on EBAY even at RRP when OS companies were selling there, so who knows.
We've found people like something more in a review than cut and pasting the company line. We defy Epson to find a review where we said any of their products had a problem. We suggest any problems are with staff not grasping Epson's corporate core values, Epson are very clear as to what's acceptable in advertising. We've been threatened not just by Epson but by their technology opposition also, so for the record we are equal opportunity skeptics!
Naturally we are happy to correct any errors or omissions Epson or anyone else care to point out. Our reviews are our/linked opinions only. In the review in question we noted that we could not see much of a difference between the two native 1080P projectors (EH-TW9300 / W8000) other than the size. Picking Epson's 4K "enhancement" was beyond us when the two 1080P projectors were side-by-side. They were both awesome.
We'd understand Epson Projectors Australia being upset if we used a "daylight screen" for the BenQ W8000 and a normal screen for the EH TW9300 but that would be unethical.
How could you show people an image they will not get at home unless they spend as much or more on the screen as they did on the projector?
You'd have to be very clear about this caveat. We cover in more detail how this could be a problem for Epson on page 3.
Epson Australia and a good portion of the industry may be being misleading people with some of their CR claims on some projector / TV models, on others they are much more reasonable and probably accurate, that was our staring point but the plot thickens. Epson have no need to resort to marketing "puffery" and it seems they don't intentionally do this as we found out.
Reason for Epson's (and the others?) Wacky CR claims uncovered
We could never understand why so many Projector manufacturers insisted on measuring home theater projectors in a mode that you'd almost never use in the home but a mode you'd probably use at work, in say the board room.
Massive CR numbers gotten this way seemed dishonest to us, we use the VW example as a parallel.
Using the wrong mode will kill the light output in an office situation (data projector) where you often need the projector to be working flat out at the expense of color accuracy. In the same way using the wrong mode at home in your cinema room will kill the color fidelity and make a movie almost unwatchable you'd also ramp up the fan noise.
You'd use "Dynamic" or another high light output mode in high ambient light situations, normally the fan would also start to make a lot more noise too. In offices and board rooms etc. the increased fan noise is not so noticeable as it would be at home. If you're looking at a spread sheet or Power Point you're also not fussed about the absolute accuracy because there are normally no skin tones.
Now we know why the wrong mode was chosen to test home projectors across the industry, it had nothing to do with dishonesty and everything to do with incompetence.
Marketing departments for most brands that went along for the ride with CR readings that are now jumping the shark, seem to have never figured out or cared that they were using a test specified for office (data) projectors. AKA High ambient light situations often require more lumens and less contrast. In our opinion (common sense we'd suggest) they all should have been testing home projectors using a mode for lower light and better color rendition situations, home cinema or light controlled rooms.
ANSI checkerboard is a good staring place, just ask Choice.
After checking out further information supplied by Epson Australia's Sales & Marketing Business Division there was no "puffery" or misleading information intended and that's good to hear, we expected nothing less. Epson's Sales & Marketing Business Division informed us precisely how they test Home Cinema projectors:
Epson use a test method designated for Data Projectors / Office Equipment. (..opps)
This test method is a few years old (2012), that may explain the small (40-70 inch) screen size.
The test Epson have decided to use is timeless in one regard, the requirement to use a "dynamic" lamp mode. The test is after all, designed for for office equipment > data projector, so the designers of this test are spot on asking for the highest lamp / fan output mode.
This mix-up inadvertently made some CR measurements look like puffery to us, (marketing hype) and possibly anyone that has a clue about home cinema.
Real 4K Projectors vs. lots of pixels
In regard to 4K and the definition we'll cover that in more detail elsewhere in this review.
Our opinion is large font 4K with small font caveats like "enhancement" or "up-scaling" is not acceptable.
We've seen examples of retailer advertising with nothing much other than a massive 4K headline so buyers could be forgiven for thinking they're buying true 4K rather than "sort of" 4K. We're now hearing about people that have purchased projectors on the understanding (personal demonstrations, they were told..) they were getting 4K. Once finding out that was not truly the case, rightly they could be looking for a refund. If you've had this problem please feel free to contact us.
Dumb and Dumber
Office equipment is not home equipment especially in the case of Digital Projection & Data Projectors.
Silly us for not considering that almost the whole industry could be using the wrong test!
It never crossed our mind that anyone working at Epson or any of the other companies doing the same thing (massive CR claims) could be so inept as to fall for such a simple mistake like using the wrong test. Hopefully is was just a rookie mistake, we're asking ALL manufacturers to let us know.
Please all projector manufacturers read the below paragraph, if you follow this for home cinema you won't get your tests messed up or use the wrong one.
"Unless you test contrast ratio with ANSI the results are
not sufficiently repeatable or defensible to be useful."
Puffed up CR numbers look good in just one place, on a brochure.
Based in honesty Epson has a clear corporate mandate, so in this respect we consider Epson a leader too.
We have concerns with their Australian marketing department, if we need to elaborate we will, nothing sinister, by all means up for debate. Epson AU have not really put forward much that excuses them but that's just our opinion as is every word we write in our reviews.
Hopefully Epson will start to "do the right thing", possibly they could look for guidance to New Zealand. No doubt US and Japan will be unimpressed to see what errors or omissions we believe we may have uncovered with help from Epson Australia. Please Epson use the Native & ANSI contrast figures on home video products so non technical people will know what to expect in real life.
Sorry to repeat, but how is not giving real life performance figures different to what VW did with emission figures?
The VW figures it seems only came about under test conditions. We're not talking "on the road" tests but situations users won't be able to reproduce in everyday use.
It's not just Epson it's most of AV imaging that seem to be playing catch up with Epson's Shark Jumping CR specifications.
Another example, say auto companies were claiming zero energy use provided your not using the motor?
How is that much different from zero light output providing your not looking at anything but black?
How often do you really need a "black only" feature?
Epson have given buyers a more complete CR picture now and then as you can see from the image below, was the marketing department on holidays? :)
It's going to be interesting to see what they all claim for CR when dividing the white screen's lumens by zero which is the newest claim for a totally black screen.
Some of the latest projectors can emit zero light on a totally black image. How useful is that? You've seen this already on some LCD TVs, nothing to show? Turn off the light.
We believe the zero figure, still waiting to see the mathematically impossible full on/off dynamic contrast ratio.
We don't want to tell Epson or their competitors doing the same thing how to suck eggs but what they need to do is allow 1/2,500,000th of the light (ratio to the white) to stay on in the black portion of the "test" then they can still make the claim, as silly as it is. While you can't make the measurement exactly (never could) it will be close, say within 1% depending on the actual projector as they vary in output a lot more than 1/2,500,000 percent. Not to mention all lamps/LEDS degrade.
Not just Epson
When it comes to unrealistic specifications (CR, 4K etc.) many manufacturers are guilty.
Epson's AU marketing department let us know if there are any errors in our reviews they care to point out.
They have done just that, so we want to make it clear it's not just Epson we're criticising for what we consider questionable advertising we trust they are all big enough to take it on the chin and prove us wrong or up their game.
When Epson Australia lead with way out specifications most of the others may feel they forced to match them.
This review is also a way of comparing Epson's stated corporate values with their actions in terms of marketing / promoting some of their projectors. Epson projectors are first rate, so using figures that we believe can't be obtained at home seems to go against Epson's core values of honesty and integrity to this end we've given Epson Australia numerous opportunities to supply the test results they use to come up with the figures at time of writing they have not.
They did supply more information about the test they claim to have used, as we've pointed out that's the wrong test.
- What are the chances of having test results that's precisely 1,000,000:1 or 2,500,000:1?
- So our question is was it more or less? It can't be precisely that the odds are millions to one!
Epson also claim 2,500,000:1 CR (Contrast Ratio) on their new EH-LS100 short throw projector. Epson make the same claim on other projectors such as EB-L25000UNL EB-L1300UNL EB-L1505UNL EB-L1100UNL EB-L1405UNL which are all massively capable models, it seemed like marketing puffery, now we know different.
We now know from Epson why such measurements are taken in "Dynamic" mode and we thank Epson for providing the office equipment test format to us.
Other brands (and their range of AV products like TVs) often do the same, they quote "jump the shark" numbers (not sure if they all use the exact same test) but it seems to us that Epson jumped the shark first and highest.
So it's up to the reader to decide is this is all just puffery, stupidity or some other motive on the part of all the manufacturers that use tests that don't mirror the intended use.
Anything in the 1m+ CR range in our opinion has nothing to do with real user situations, we weren't impressed with 1,000,000:1 in terms of accurately representing what a projector can do in real life contrast situations. Upping the CR ante to 2.5m:1 makes it that much more unbelievable to us.
Q. Is it honest to use figures unobtainable in real life situations?
- Would that not be the same as quoting 0-100 acceleration times but only down hill?
- What about fuel economy but only in reverse?
- What if you quoted emission figures that can't be obtained on the road? (WV)
We spoke to Epson Australia Business Manager - Projectors (DS) who put us in touch with Epson's Business Development Manager - Visual Solutions (KM) and that's now in the hands of Epson Australia's General Manager – Sales & Marketing Business Division who has been most helpful because now we understand how Epson came about the massive CR readings.
As many staff as projectors? :)
General Manager – Sales & Marketing Business Division provided us with detailed information about Epson's chosen CR testing method. (Test was not made by Epson, just used by Epson as noted in above sections) and thus the reason for testing on a 40-70 inch screen. There are a lot of people working at Epson and you can see how easy it would be for the left hand to not know what the right hand is doing if someone technical had a say in marketing we doubt this review would be written.
We were not amused with the small screen size tested when selling projectors at the high Australian price asked for models such as the EH-TW8300 and EH-TW9300, sold into the 100 inch plus market, but now we know, it's all in the word "office" so simple.
BenQ Australia have provided us with their ANSI test results. No fuss just sent it.
Till Epson do the same we don't think it would be fair to publish one and not the other. What we can say is, as expected the ANSI result is a fraction of on/off or dynamic CR. This makes sense because you're not watching a white screen then a black screen, what you see is a mixture of light levels.
We approached Choice to Independently test for us. Choice stated:
"Unless you test contrast ratio with ANSI the results are not sufficiently repeatable or defensible to be useful.."
We totally agree, that's the way we test also. Epson & BenQ (like most in this space) don't often publish their ANSI CR figures, if they did millions:1 would not come into it, more likely hundreds or a thousand to one, that does not look so good on brochures.
Epson and other brands are not consistent..
Let's look at another Epson projector, model the MG-850HD
"..2,800 lumens and a high contrast ratio of 3,000:1, meaning high quality images are projected, even in daylight."
Q. If 3,000:1 is high contrast (in our mind a more accurate reading) then what do you call millions to one, unbelievable?
Epson's Core Brand guidelines
Epson define Authenticity as:
– Unstaged – Candid – Natural – Real – Unposed
Let's keep it real!
Some of Epson's comparisons are based on 5 year old data, things have changed a lot in that time.
For one thing, Epson are not offering true 4K but some of their competitors do
Epson via AU General Manager – Sales & Marketing - Business Division:-
Help us out Epson, 2011-2012..
Not very refreshing? "Also" incorrect, that's a good one!
1 ) Compared to leading 1-chip DLP business and education projectors based on NPD data, July 2011 through June 2012. Colour Brightness (Colour Light Output) measured in accordance with IDMS 15.4. Colour Brightness will vary depending on usage conditions. 2) Based on watching content for five hours every day with the projector set in Eco mode 3) Warranty of five years or 12,000 hours - whichever comes first. - EPSON
Speaking of Changing Times
Some newer / more high powered Epson projectors now use a spinning phosphor wheel.
"Epson's original LCD panels and phosphor wheel are made of inorganic material.." (Pro L-Series projectors)
*"..There are a couple of important riders I need to add to this hands-on.. ..being used in Epson’s demonstrations with what appeared to be a pretty serious ‘ambient light’ screen from Elite Screens. Getting a screen similarly effective combatting ambient light could set you back another £2,500. So obviously when we review the LS100 fully, we’ll need to see how well its TV-challenging images hold up on a more affordable, ‘normal’ screen. Or even a wall."
"..The picture was sharp (I didn't miss 4K resolution) and bright, although as expected it got washed out when I asked the representatives to brighten the lights. It was installed with a specialized 120-inch screen from Screen Innovations, which cost as much as the projector itself."
If someone purchased a projector not knowing that what they had seen was only possible via an expensive and specialised projection screen then they would be within their rights to return it because their in-home experience was not what they viewed at shows? and/or If they honestly believed (possibly were told) that it was true 4K but it was not, is that the same situation? This is why people need to be very clear in such situations. "Do you want true 4K" (yes) then the Epson ____ is not for you.